Surah al-Zukhruf, Chapter 43, Verses 1 - 39
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Except for Verse 45, the rest of the Verses of the Chapter were revealed in Mecca.
The title of the Chapter derives from Verse 35 in which the word
is attested. Main issues discussed in the Chapter include: the Holy Qur’an and prophethood; opponents’ reaction against prophets; arguments substantiating Divine Unity, struggles against polytheism; partial narration of the legends of prophets; and a depiction of the Hereafter.
A point worthy of note is that seven consecutive Qur’anic Chapters, namely Ghafir, Fussilat, Shura, Zukhruf, Dukhan, Jathiya, and Ahqaf termed as Hawamim or Suwar Al Ha Mim, open with the detached letters HM.
Many sources on Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) and tradition (hadith) include Islamic traditions concerning many a merit for the recitation of the Chapter in question, an instance of which is a Prophetic tradition saying:
“One who recites Surah al-Zukhruf is among those who are thus addressed on the Day of Resurrection:
‘O My servants, you are to entertain neither fear nor grief on this day as you shall be admitted to Paradise1 provided that you act upon religious instructions.’”
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاهُ قُرْآناً عَرَبِيّاً لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
وَإِنَّهُ فِي أُمِّ الْكِتَابِ لَدَيْنَا لَعَلِيٌّ حَكِيمٌ
2. By the illuminating Book [the Qur’an].
3. Indeed We have made it a Qur’an in the Arabic [tongue] that you may be able to understand [It].
4. And indeed It is in the Mother of the Book [the preserved tablet, lawh mahfus] with Us indeed exalted, full of wisdom, and firm on Its basis.
The characteristics of the Holy Qur’an as a Divinely Revealed Book include: manifest and illuminating (mubin); springing from Divine Omniscience (fi Umm al-Kitab); of immaterial origin (ladayna); Its form and content are exalted (‘aliy); Its contents are full of wisdom and firm on Its basis (hakim).
derives from the root q-r-’ (“recite, read”).
is taken from ‘Arab (“the Arabs”). The Arabic tongue is employed in the sense of clear and unambiguous language.
The Chapter in question as well as the following ones includes discussions by Qur’anic exegets concerning HM to the effect that the detached letters constitute the title of the Chapters or they may serve as a reference to the Most Beautiful Divine Names e.g. the Praiseworthy (Hamid), the All-Glorious (Majid), the Compassionate (Hannan), the Benevolent (Mannan), the Protector (Hafis), and the Noble (Majid).
It is said that all the letters of alphabet opening a number of the Qur’anic Chapters apparently serve as codes between God Almighty and His Prophet (S) regarded as Qur’anic equivocal Verses (mutashabihat) the knowledge of which rests with God and those well rooted in knowledge (al-rasikhun fi ‘l-ilm) thus dropping the subject is more appropriate.
is the word of oath which ad hoc makes a reference to the manifest Book, namely the Holy Qur’an, which is clear in terms of form and eloquence and is inimitable, i.e., producing the same form, meaning, and intricacies rests beyond human capacity.
A brief reflection on the form and content of Qur’anic Verses clearly indicates that the most eminent scholars fail to discover Its least intricacies even if they exert themselves assiduously; none the less Its injunctions and laws are manifest:
The preceding clause is the apodosis of the oath which is ad hoc employed in the sense of taking an oath to the Qur’an Divinely Revealed by God Almighty to His Prophet (S) in the Arabic tongue so that the Arabs ponder on Its meaning and intricacies.
One of the grounds behind Revelation of the Holy Qur’an in the Arabic tongue is that it is the most eloquent and the most comprehensive language and eminent scholars bear testimony to the fact that it rests on comprehensive and precise rules possessing the capacity to convey the most intricate and significant points and issues.
Another reason is that according to the Holy Qur’an:
as per which the Noble Prophet (S) was Divinely appointed to guide his kith and kin and since they were from the Quraysh tribe wo were speakers of the Arabic tongue, the Holy Qu’an was Revealed in it. However, there are other secrets known by experts.
The fourth Verse enumerates three more characteristics of the Holy Qur’an:
1. Prior to Its Revelation to the Noble Prophet (S), the Holy Qur’an had been recorded in the Mother of the Book, namely the Preserved Tablet (lawh mahfus), in Divine Presence.
2. It is the Most Elevated Book among all Divinely Revealed Books and it the Most Comprehensive Book abrogating preceding ones. It will serve as Divine Guidance to man to the Last Day without being abrogated by any other book.
3. The Holy Qur’an is full of wisdom, namely it provides man with wisdom. All Its injunctions and laws rest on reason and logic and Its Verses are consistent with intellectual proofs and arguments. Furthermore, it rests on the golden mean such that a brief reflection on It will suffice for the wise and scholars to acknowledge that It is Revealed by the Wise Originator of creation.
أَفَنَضْرِبُ عَنْكُمُ الذِّكْرَ صَفْحاً أَنْ كُنْتُمْ قَوْماً مُسْرِفِينَ
وَكَمْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ نَبِيٍّ فِي الْأَوَّلِينَ
وَمَا يَأْتِيهِمْ مِنْ نَبِيٍّ إِلَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ
فَأَهْلَكْنَا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ بَطْشاً وَمَضَى مَثَلُ الْأَوَّلِينَ
5. Shall We then take away the Reminder [i.e., the Holy Qur’an] from you, because you are transgressors beyond bounds.
6. And how many a prophet have We sent amongst the ancient.
7. And never came there a prophet to them but they would mock him.
8. Then We destroyed men stronger [in terms of power] than them [transgressors of bounds] and the fate of the ancient was recurred.
Ignoring Divine injunctions is regarded as transgression of bounds (israf). All prophets were mocked by disbelievers; therefore, any prophet was expected to be aware of his predecessors so that he would not desist from carrying out his duty for disbelievers’ mockery.
Verse five is a reference to the preceding one.
is a rhetorical question conveying the meaning that are We supposed to leave you in your ignorance and take away the Reminder, namely the Holy Qur’an, from you so that you may be deprived of such Divine Favor despite your transgression of bounds, persistence in disbelief and animosity to the extreme, and your being astray in the abyss of error?
It may allude to disbelievers’ persistence in staying in error and denial of Divine Guidance, namely the inimitable Word emanated from the springhead of Divine Favor revealed to the Prophet (S) for guidance and felicity.
Despite disbelievers’ turning away from the Reminder, God Almighty provides humanity with everlasting Grace and innumerable Favors through the Revelation of the Holy Qur’an in order that they may benefit from Divine Guidance.
Addressing the Noble Prophet (S), the following Verses serve as a consolation to him and a warning against polytheists by saying that God Almighty appointed many a prophet among the polytheist ancient who transgressed the bounds.
Their disbelief did not hinder Divine appointment of prophets. All prophets were subject to the mockery of ancient disbelievers and it was their disbelief that led to the chastisement of the most powerful of the ancient nations and their perdition.
A number of instances are attested in the Holy Qur’an as per which the glory and power of the ancient could not impede their being chastised for their persistence in disbelief and their treatment of their prophets. Their dire fate may serve as a lesson to others.
وَلَئِنْ سَأَلْتَهُمْ مَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ لَيَقُولُنَّ خَلَقَهُنَّ الْعَزِيزُ الْعَلِيمُ
9. And indeed if you ask them, “Who has created the heavens and the earth” They will surely say: “The Omnipotent, the Omniscient [God] created them.”
Polytheists regarded God as the Creator, but they worshipped idols which bears testimony to the fact that even if vanity, ignorance and imitating ancestors overshadows human intellection, primordial natural disposition (fitra) fully comprehends Divine Omniscience and Omnipotence.
Addressing the Noble Prophet (S) the blessed Verse in question is saying O Muhammad (S), if you ask these disbelievers and polytheists about the Creator of the heavens and the earth, they will unhesitatingly answer,
“the Omniscient, the All-Victorious, the All-Conqueror God has created them.”
It alludes to the fact that human primordial disposition is by nature inclined toward Divine Unity bearing to the existence of the One God through his primordial disposition since human intellect bears testimony to the fact that no construction, movement, or created being may exist without constructor, mover, or creator.
Reflecting on his existence, man comprehends that he is created ex nihilo, how could he deny the existence of Divine Unity when reflecting on the systematicity of creation, the glory of the vast world and the secrets of Creation manifest throughout the world of Creation all bowing to precise laws.
Nonetheless, man is too ignorant and wrong doing (saluman jahula) to associate other objects of worship with God and it is through his imperfect intellect that he imagines that other entities besides God may be of any effect in the world of existence.
The blessed Verse warns disbelievers who refrain from following prophetic teachings and neglect the truth that anyone, through his primordial disposition, comprehends that he is in the presence of the Sublime God and all the higher and lower creatures are subjugated to His Creation; however, disbelievers resort to frail creatures, such as inanimate things that are far inferior to them, for support and protection.
الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مَهْداً وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ فِيهَا سُبُلاً لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
10. Who has made for you the earth a resting place, and has made for you roads therein, in order that you may find your way.
The path to Guidance is a Divine Favor. If the regions of the earth were detached by lofty mountains and deep valleys, mankind would be unable to live on it. Therefore, the possibility of constructing roads is a Divine blessing.
Traversing lands and perceiving them may lead man to the path of Guidance. The blessed Verse indicates Divine Unity and His Essential Attributes a posteriori saying that God Whose Existence is acknowledged by you is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
He is the Creator of all things Who has made the earth for you like a cradle through His Grace and Bounty. The similitude of the earth to a cradle is a reference to the rotation of the earth on its axis.
The rotary movement of the earth is also discovered by modern science. It is worthy of note that astronomers of the old maintained that the earth is motionless and the sun rotates around the earth once in 24 hours and the existence of nights and days are resulted from the solar rotary movement.
Qur’anic exegets have interpreted the word mahd as peace and rest, but the word means the cradle used for infants as a place of rest. The discovery of the rotary motion of the earth on its axis by modern science bears testimony to one of the Qur’anic miracles and secrets unknown to any anyone in olden times.
وَالَّذِي نَزَّلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً بِقَدَرٍ فَأَنْشَرْنَا بِهِ بَلْدَةً مَيْتاً كَذَلِكَ تُخْرَجُونَ
وَالَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَزْوَاجَ كُلَّهَا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الْفُلْكِ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مَا تَرْكَبُونَ
11. And Who sent down water from the sky in due measure, then We revived a dead land therewith, and so you will be brought forth [from the graves].
12. And Who has created all the pairs and has appointed for you ships and cattle on which you ride:
The preceding Verse and the One in question make mention of Divine Unity and the Hereafter respectively. The word qadar is either used in the sense of “measure” or “ordainment and plan,” i.e., He sent down rain in due measure or sent down rain as per ordainment and plan; therefore, all rain drops are sent down according to a well calculated plan;
According to the blessed Verse, it is another Divine Favor that He sends down water from the sky so that the soil which is dead in winter season turns verdant in springtime.
indicates that in the same manner the dead soil turns verdant in springtime as if it is revived, the dead undergo a drastic change on the Day of Resurrection and an everlasting life is bestowed upon them. The revival of the dead on the Day of Resurrection is likened to the rejuvenation of the dead soil in springtime in many a Qur’anic Verse.
The secret may lie in the fact that soil per se remain dormant in winter season but the land is not verdant with plants and in the meantime, through divine Omnipotence and Wisdom, rears water, freshness, and seeds in it such that it may be covered with verdant and lush coverage in springtime.
In like manner, man may turn mortal through death, but his material being turns invisible in this world and all his acts acquired and actualized in his lifespan turn invisible; however, they are reared posthumously and it will be through Divine Will that he will be accorded a new life on the Day of Resurrection which is the last stage of his journey toward the Divine.
On such Day, he will reap whatever he has sown such that if he sowed fruitless and bitter plants in the field of his being, he shall certainly reap the same on the Last Day.
Verse 12 is a Reminder from God Almighty to man that He has created all male and female pairs. It was mentioned elsewhere that all creatures have been created in male and female pairs, even constituent elements include positive and negative elements which stand on a par with male and female pairs in the animal world.
True Unity solely belongs to God Almighty, the Necessary Existent Being. The Verse in question also makes mention of other Divine Favors, e.g. ships that may easily traverse water and quadrupeds used for riding and other purposes, bestowed on mankind in order to meet their needs.
لِتَسْتَوُوا عَلَی ظُهُورِهِ ثُمَّ تَذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ رَبِّكُمْ إِذَا اسْتَوَيْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ وَتَقُولُوا سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ لَنَا هَذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لَهُ مُقْرِنِينَ
وَإِنَّا إِلَی رَبِّنَا لَمُنْقَلِبُونَ
13. In order that you may mount on their backs and then may remember the Favor of your Lord when you mount thereon and say “Glory to Him Who has subjected this to us and we could never have it [by making efforts].”
14. And indeed to our Lord we shall return.
Benefiting from Divine Bounties is to be accompanied by remembrance of God Almighty and gratitude toward Him rather than vanity and negligence. Divine Bounties and their due measure is a reflection of Divine Lordship.
The blessed Verse says that when you mount on ships and quadrupeds, you should be aware that they are Bounties bestowed upon you by your Creator. You are supposed to say that God Almighty Who has subjected all these creatures in the heaven and on the earth are All-Glorious and man is too weak to subject such overpowering creatures to his will.
Thus man is supposed to be grateful toward God Almighty for the innumerable Bounties bestowed upon man. He should never be neglectful of remembering his Lord.
The Verse says:
which alludes to the remembrance of the Divine Origin of creation and the Hereafter. Whoever reflects and acknowledges through certain knowledge (‘ilm al-yaqin) that God Almighty has subjected all creatures for human growth and perfection and each being is ordained to have a purpose and final end, he will acknowledge that man who is the ultimate end (ghayat al-ghayat) is supposed to attain to the final end of his being which is to return to his Origin.
Such return shall be done on the Day of Resurrection as the final stage of human development. Returning to God Almighty is a great Favor for righteous believers bestowed by God Almighty Whose Most Beautiful Names include the All-Compassionate (al-Rahman) and the All-Gracious (al-Rahim).
Au contraire, disbelievers and hypocrites return to God Almighty Who is Wrathful and Whose Most Beautiful Names include All-Subjugating (al-Qahhar) and Strict in Punishment (Shadid al-‘Iqab).
وَجَعَلُوا لَهُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ جُزْءاً إِنَّ الْأِنْسَانَ لَكَفُورٌ مُبِينٌ
أَمِ اتَّخَذَ مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ بَنَاتٍ وَأَصْفَاكُمْ بِالْبَنِينَ
15. [Polytheists said: “Angels are daughters of God”] and they assigned to some of His servants a share with Him. Indeed man is a manifest ingrate.
16. Or has He taken daughters out of what He has created and He has selected for you sons?
It would be unbefitting to regard daughters a disgrace and imagine that that God Almighty has daughters. The blessed verse in question alludes to disbelievers’ ignorance that they assign to some of His servants a share with Him, such that angels who are His creatures are termed as God’s daughters. This inappropriate attribution is a manifest token of disbelief.
The other point is that:
as a rhetorical question with hamza of denial in Arabic is a reproach to them to the effect that disbelievers regard weak creatures as God’s offspring.
The blessed Verse inquires disbelievers:
“Would it be fitting that God Almighty select daughters for Himself from among His Creatures and select sons for you?”
Such attributions reveal their ignorance and inanity since daughters and sons are accorded shares with their parents but the Necessary Being is the Originator of the world.
He is One, Glorified, and Free from corporeality as it is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:
As a consequence, the blessed Verse 15 closes with saying that indeed man is a manifest ingrate.
وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُمْ بِمَا ضَرَبَ لِلرَّحْمَنِ مَثَلاً ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدّاً وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ
17. And if one of them is informed of the news of what pleases God the All-Compassionate, his face becomes dark and he suppresses his grief.
Those filled with grief upon being informed of the birth of a daughter and imagine that sons are better than daughters suffer from polytheistic superstitions.
The blessed Verse is a reproach to disbelievers who upon being informed of the news of the birth of a daughter that they set forth as a parable to the Most Gracious Allah, their faces became dark out of suppressed rage and ire since they deemed it a disgrace to have daughters and as a consequence of their malice and viciousness they attributed female offspring to God and called them Allah’s daughters.
The Verse reproaches disbelievers whose faces darkened from suppressed anger upon hearing the news of the birth of female offspring. However, the Creator of daughters and sons is the Same and they are both human beings and their offspring.
The Verse inquires of disbelievers:
“Why do you attribute to God what you deem weaker and attribute to yourselves what you regard stronger?”
أَوَمَنْ يُنَشَّأُ فِي الْحِلْيَةِ وَهُوَ فِي الْخِصَامِ غَيْرُ مُبِينٍ
18. Is [it appropriate that] the one who is brought up in adornments and who in dispute cannot make herself clear [be attributed to God Almighty]?
We noticed in Verse nine that polytheists regarded the Glorious and Omniscient God as the Creator of being.
The blessed Verse in question says:
“why do you who regard the Creator as Glorious and Omnipotent attribute daughters to Him who are brought up in adornments and are subjugated by their feelings and sentiments in disputes, but the fact is that firmness and decisiveness rather than sentimentality are the prerequisites of endearment and logic and argumentation rather than being subjected to feelings are necessary for the acquisition of knowledge.”
The Verse inquires of disbelievers,
“Why do you regard as Divine offspring the one who is brought up in adornments and who in disputes cannot make herself clear but regard sons as your offspring?”
The word yunsha’u (“is brought up”) derives from nasha’a (lit. “make something,” ad hoc “be brought up”). The words hilya and khisam are employed in the senses of “adornment” and “dispute” respectively.
Two feminine characteristics noticed in the majority of females springing from their sentimentality are to be found in the blessed Verse in question, i.e., their keen interest in adornments and their insufficient capacity for substantiating their arguments which is due to their modesty and prudency.
There are indubitably females not so interested in adornments and a moderate interest in adornments is by no means a demerit for them. The demerit lies in extreme keenness of adornments as if they are born in adornments and are brought up there.
Likewise, there are females who possess a remarkable capacity for logic and argumentation, but it may not be denied that because of modesty and prudence, compared with males, the majority of females possess a weaker capacity for argumentation and disputation.
The major theme of the blessed Verse in question is that disbelievers regard female offspring as Allah’s daughters and deem their sons as their own offspring.
وَجَعَلُوا الْمَلائِكَةَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ عِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ إِنَاثاً أَشَهِدُوا خَلْقَهُمْ سَتُكْتَبُ شَهَادَتُهُمْ وَيُسْأَلونَ
19. And they make the angels who themselves are servants of the Most Gracious [Allah] females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony [for superstitions] will be recorded and they will be questioned.
All testimonies and words are recorded in the presence of Allah. Superstitious beliefs are to be severely suppressed. The blessed Verse reveals their unworthy and baseless words regarding their false beliefs according to which angels who are Allah’s servants are termed as His daughters.
The Verse inquires:
“Were they present at the time of their creation to witness the manner of their making and learn that they were male or female? Their false words and testimonies will be recorded soon and they will be questioned on the Day of Resurrection and will be chastised for their words and acts.”
وَقَالُوا لَوْ شَاءَ الرَّحْمَنُ مَا عَبَدْنَاهُمْ مَا لَهُمْ بِذَلِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ
20. And they said: “If it had been the Will of the Most Gracious [Allah], we should not have worshipped them.” They have no knowledge [nor scientific reason] whatsoever of that. They say nothing but out of conjecture and supposition.
Wrong doers make attempts at justification of their acts and take advantage of Divine Will as their pretext.
The word yakhrusun derives from khars which is employed in the sense of words based on conjecture and supposition. Words having no basis on knowledge, particularly those concerning dogmatic issues, are not to be acknowledged.
Consequently, the blessed Verse in question says that had the Most Gracious Lord willed, we would not have worshipped idols and false deities; thereby, they made attempts at exonerate themselves of sins saying that it had been Divine Will that they worshipped deities besides Allah.
The blessed Verse is a reply to them to the effect that such words, like other baseless words uttered by them, indicate their ignorance and illogicality.
They are liars since they utter untrue words since God Almighty never wills the disbelief of disbelievers as it is reflected in the Holy Qur’an:
أَمْ آتَيْنَاهُمْ كِتَاباً مِنْ قَبْلِهِ فَهُمْ بِهِ مُسْتَمْسِكُونَ
بَلْ قَالُوا إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَى أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَی آثَارِهِمْ مُهْتَدُونَ
21. Or have We given them any Book before this to which they are holding fast?
22. Nay! [It is not so.] They say: We found our fathers following a certain religion, and we have found guidance by following them.
Polytheism and superstition have neither intellectual nor narrational bases. The blessed Verse in question makes a reference to another argument which may be produced by disbelievers.
The Verse says,
i.e., they are supposed to take resort to rational or narrational arguments in order to substantiate their claim; nonetheless, they fail to provide either of the twain since all intellectual arguments as well as the teachings of prophets and scriptures bear witness to Divine Unity.
Verse 22 makes a reference to their main pretext which is no more than a superstitious claim serving as the pivot of another.
The blessed verse in question informs of their false claim:
They blindly imitated their ancestors and forefathers. It is interesting to know that they regarded themselves guided to the right path whereas in dogmatic issues no wise person may rely on imitation particularly in the manner of ignorant imitation of the ignorant.
We know that their ancestors possessed no knowledge but they were preoccupied with superstitious beliefs and ignorance wielded a vast sway in their thoughts and society.
The point is that imitation is solely sensible in minor issues and such imitation is supposed to be based on scholarly and expert advice such that patients and non-specialists take the advice of physicians and experts. As a consequence, it may be said that disbelievers’ blind imitation from their ancestors and forefathers was inaccurate.
وَكَذَلِكَ مَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ فِي قَرْيَةٍ مِنْ نَذِيرٍ إِلَّا قَالَ مُتْرَفُوهَا إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَى أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَى آثَارِهِمْ مُقْتَدُونَ
23. And similarly We sent not a warner before you to any town but the luxurious ones among them said: “We found our fathers following a certain religion and we will indeed follow their footsteps.”
derives from tarifa (“to live in opulence”) and implies one whose opulent life has led him to vanity.
It was mentioned in the preceding Verse that common people believe that their ancestors’ way of life was true and they may follow their footsteps in order to tread the path of guidance:
However, the blessed Verse in question says that those living in luxury think about opulence and worldly possessions rather than attaining to guidance and following their ancestors’ beliefs is not for attaining to guidance:
In this blessed Verse, God Almighty informs His Prophet (S) that all the prophets before him said unto people that they were all treading the path of falsehood and prophets were appointed by God Almighty, the Creator of the world, to lead them to the right path and show them the path of felicity and deliverance so that they may know that the God of the world is One and he has no associates in His Divine Being and Essence rather he creates out of His Will.
He provides for His creatures through Omnipotence. He is neither part of a whole nor any thing is part of Him. He is All-Glorious and free from corporeality.
All attributes of Perfection, e.g. Everlastingness and Unity are His. Such Divine Being rather than incompetent and ignorant objects of worship is Praiseworthy. In response to the prophets’ wise admonitions, they did not resort to their reason and common sense but said that they followed the footsteps of their ancestors and believed in their religion.
قَالَ أَوَلَوْ جِئْتُكُمْ بِأَهْدَی مِمَّا وَجَدْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ آبَاءَكُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُمْ بِهِ كَافِرُونَ
فَانْتَقَمْنَا مِنْهُمْ فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ
24. [Their Prophet] said, “[Would you desist from following your ancestors’ footsteps] if I bring you better guidance than that which you found your fathers following?” They said: “Indeed we disbelieve in that with which you have been sent.”
25. Therefore, We took revenge on them then see what was the end of those who denied [monotheism].
It is worthy of note that one may offer a better alternative in forbidding evil;
One method of the presentation of a school of thought is to compare and contrast the teachings of different schools. In their Calls, prophets made use of reason and intellection where as their opponents resorted to tribalism and imitation.
The point is that taking revenge and violence in their appropriate places are not inconsistent with Divine Mercy and Grace.
According to the last two Verses their prophets inquired them to make use of their intellection to perceive if prophets provide them with a better course leading to righteousness and felicity they must acknowledge the truth and thereby benefit from Divine Favors. However, they turned away from Divine Guidance and went to extremes in the persecution of prophets.
They were so entangled with tribalism, vanity, and enmity that they were not supposed to turn to Divine Guidance rather regarding them the Holy Quran says:
Then it was the proper season for taking revenge;
and they were subject to Divine Wrath and they were afflicted with diverse torments such as drowning, tempest, and icy gale.
The Noble Prophet (S) is here addressed thus:
It is apparently addressed to the Noble Prophet (S) but it implies a warning to polytheists and disbelievers.
وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ إِنَّنِي بَرَاءٌ مِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ
إِلَّا الَّذِي فَطَرَنِي فَإِنَّهُ سَيَهْدِينِ
وَجَعَلَهَا كَلِمَةً بَاقِيَةً فِي عَقِبِهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
26. And [remember] when Abraham (as) said unto his father [his paternal uncle, Azar] and his people: “Indeed I dislike what you worship, “Except Him Who did create me; and indeed He will guide me.” And he made it [the formula of Divine Unity, namely “There is no god but Allah”] a Word lasting among his offspring that they may turn back [toward Divine Unity].
As mentioned above, idolaters’ logic rested on following their ancestors’ footsteps. According to the blessed Verse in question, Abraham (as) bitterly criticized the religion of his guardian who was his uncle as well.
The subject (fa’il) of the verb:
in the clause:
may be either God or Abraham (as); the former made Abraham (as) offspring to believe in Divine Unity thanks to Abraham (as) faith; it may also be said that Abraham (as) left the Call of Divine Unity and abstention from polytheism with his offspring.
According to a narration from Imam ‘Ali (as), the Noble Prophet (S) is a descendant of Abraham (as) and the Prophet’s Household (as) are descendants of Abraham (as) and Muhammad (S).7
Mention is briefly made of Abraham (as) and his encounter with his idol worshipping people of Babylon to complete the discussion on the reproach of blind imitation in the preceding Verses, since Abraham (as) was the most eminent Arab figure well respected by everyone and being descended from him was regarded as an honor.
He was the one who tore asunder the veils of blind imitation. The Holy Qur’an is saying that were they speaking the truth, they would follow his footsteps. Why did they blindly imitate idolaters if they were inclined toward adherence to their forefathers?
The other point is that the idolaters whose false beliefs were criticized by Abraham (as) resorted to the same groundless claim of following their ancestors’ footsteps; nonetheless, Abraham (as) did not acknowledge their baseless claim as it is in the Holy Qur’an:
It is to be noted that it is a consolation for the Prophet (S) and early Muslims so that they know that such oppositions are not unprecedented and they are not supposed to lose their hope.
Firstly, it is said,
The following Verse says that since many an idolater worshipped god as well, Abraham (as) immediately makes an exception saying:
In this terse clause he makes mention of an argument according to which God alone is supposed to be worshipped since the object of worship is the Creator and the Governor of the world and everyone believed that God is the Creator of the world. It is also a reference to Divine Guidance in matters of existence and legislation as necessitated by Divine Grace.
According to Verse 28, Abraham (as) not only adhered to the principle of Divine Unity and struggled against any form of idolatry but also he made his utmost efforts to make the Word of Divine Unity last in the world for ever, as it is mentioned in the blessed Verse 28:
It is worthy of note that the word ‘aqib is literally used in the sense of “heel,” but it is figuratively employed in the sense of “offspring.”
It is of interest to know that the followers of all world religions believing in Divine Unity are inspired by Abraham’s (as) teachings regarding Divine Unity and the three arch-prophets Moses (as), Jesus (as), and Muhammad (S) are his descendants and it bears testimony to the veracity of the Qur’anic prediction in this vein.
It is true that prophets preceding Abraham (as), e.g. Noah (as) struggled against polytheism and idolatry and called the world to believe in Divine Unity,but it was Abraham(as) who made the Word of Divine Unity rest on its firm basis.
As an iconoclast, he raised the flag of Divine Unity everywhere.
In his lifetime, not only he made his utmost attempts at the continuity of belief in Divine Unity but also in his supplications he inquired the same from God Almighty:
According to another interpretation, the antecedent of the pronoun of ja’ala in Verse 28 is God Almighty as per which the meaning of the clause is that God placed the Word of Divine Unity in Abraham’s (as) Household.
However, the first interpretation as per which the antecedent of the pronoun is Abraham (as), seems preferable.
On the basis of different traditions narrated on the authority of the Noble Prophet’s Household (as), the antecedent of the pronoun is the question of imamate and naturally the antecedent of the subject pronoun is God; namely, God Almighty made the question of imamate last among Abraham (as) descendants.
It is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an10 that when God said unto Abraham (as) that He appointed him as the imam, he prayed to God to appoint his descendants as imams and God answered to his prayer but He made an exception for wrong doers:
The question arising at the first glance is that there is no mention of imamate in the Verse in question unless the clause:
be interpreted in a like manner since the prophets’ and imams’ guidance derives from Divine Guidance and the truth of imamate is identified with that of guidance.
It would be preferable to say that the question of imamate is included in that of Divine Unity since one of the branches of Divine Unity is the Unity of rule, guardianship, and leadership. We know that Imams derive their guardianship and leadership from Allah and they do not rely on themselves.
Likewise, such narrations specify a subcategory of the universal concept of:
which is not inconsistent with the aforementioned exegesis.11
بَلْ مَتَّعْتُ هَؤُلاءِ وَآبَاءَهُمْ حَتَّى جَاءَهُمُ الْحَقُّ وَرَسُولٌ مُبِينٌ
وَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمُ الْحَقُّ قَالُوا هَذَا سِحْرٌ وَإِنَّا بِهِ كَافِرُونَ
29. [Not only I did not destroy polytheists] but also I made them and their fathers to enjoy till there came to them the truth (the Holy Qur’an) and a Messenger (S) making things clear.
30. And when the truth came to them, they said: “This is magic and we disbelieve therein.”
God makes believers and disbelievers enjoy and gives respite to all people.
The blessed Verse 29 says that God Almighty bestowed worldly possessions and pleasures to Meccan polytheists and fathers until the truth, i.e., the Holy Qur’an, and the Messenger of God (S) came to them making things clear.
Not only God Almighty made them think about the falsity of polytheism and idolatry and Divine Unity through their intellection and conscience, but also He gave them respite to benefit from Divine Guidance through turning to the Holy Qur’an, the Book which is all truth, and the Noble Prophet Muhammad (S).
in the preceding Verse indicates that Abraham (as) made attempts at making his offspring turn to Divine Unity; nonetheless, the Arabs claimed to have descended from him but they failed to turn to It. God Almighty provided them with further respite through sending the Noble Prophet (S) with a new Book. It was awakening for a large number of the Arabs.
According to Verse 30, upon the revelation of the Holy Qur’an they failed to rectify their past errors and instead opposed the Word of Truth by saying that it was magic and they disbelieved in it:
They called the Holy Qur’an magic and the Noble Messenger of God (S) magician. Had they persisted in their disbelief, they would have been afflicted with Divine chastisement.
وَقَالُوا لَوْلا نُزِّلَ هَذَا الْقُرْآنُ عَلَی رَجُلٍ مِنَ الْقَرْيَتَيْنِ عَظِيمٍ
أَهُمْ يَقْسِمُونَ رَحْمَتَ رَبِّكَ نَحْنُ قَسَمْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ مَعِيشَتَهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَرَفَعْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِيَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُهُمْ بَعْضاً سُخْرِيّاً وَرَحْمَتُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ مِمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ
31. And they said: “Why is not this Qur’an sent down to some great man [in terms of dignity and wealth] of the two towns (Mecca and Ta’if)?”
32. Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of your Lord [regarding the Divine appointment of Muhammad to prophethood]? It is We Who portion out [between them] their livelihood in this world [let alone the exalted rank of prophethood] and We raised some of them above others in ranks so that some may employ others in their work. But the Mercy of your Lord is better than what they amass.
Some disbelievers entertained inappropriate expectations and said that such and such person was a man of substance and he was expected to receive revelation from God but the point is that material possessions may not necessitate spiritual superiority. Mention was made of polytheists’ being difficult and making excuses against prophets’ Calls in the preceding Verses.
At times they called their prophetic calls magic and sometimes they resorted to blind adherence to their ancestors and turned away from Divine Word.
Verses 31 and 32 make reference to another baseless excuse saying:
they regarded worldly possessions, ranks, and reputation as the standards of dignity. Such ignorant people imagined that their wrong doing tribal chiefs and men of substance were the closest people to God and were surprised to learn that prophethood and the Divine great Favor had not been accorded to such people but they had been bestowed upon the poor orphan, Muhammad (S). It was incredible to them.
Such inaccurate merit system of theirs led to such inferences and they still account for the afflictions of human societies and the main reason behind their intellectual deviation which falsely depict the truths of human life.
The standard bearer of the Divine Call is supposed to be one whose heart brims with the spirit of piety, awareness, will, determination, courage, justice, and familiarity with the afflictions of the deprived and the oppressed.
The required values for imparting the Divine Call do not include beautiful attires, luxurious palaces, and adornments of all kinds. None of the prophets enjoyed such opportunities lest true and false values be confused.
Whom were pointed at by polytheists making excuses? Exegets are not unanimous on the issue; however the majority of them make references to Walid ibn Mughayra from Mecca and ‘Urwa ibn Mas’ud Thaqafi from Ta’if. It is to be noted that polytheists did not apparently specify anyone but they means men of substance, good name, and noble descent.
Verse 32 is a harsh critique of such inappropriate and superstitious thought and perfectly explicates the Islamic point of view:
Anyone may not be accorded prophethood nor may the scripture be revealed to anyone. It is God Almighty who portions out his Divine Mercy between them.
He knows better that who is worthy of being appointed to prophethood as it is said elsewhere in the Holy Quran:
Furthermore, the differences between people in terms of wealth and substance may never account for their spiritual ranks, but
They forget that man is inclined toward social life and managing the affairs may solely be carried out through cooperation and had all people enjoyed the same faculties, opportunities, standards of life, and social status, the principle of cooperation and division of labor would lose their balance.
Therefore, they are not supposed to be ensnared by such differences and imagine that they are the standards of human values:
In other words, worldly possessions and social ranks are of no value against Divine Mercy and closeness to Him. The word rabbi-ka which is employed twice in the Verse is a delicate allusion to the Divine Favor particularly accorded to the Noble Prophet of Islam (S) and appointing him as the Seal of Prophets.
وَلَوْلا أَنْ يَكُونَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً لَجَعَلْنَا لِمَنْ يَكْفُرُ بِالرَّحْمَنِ لِبُيُوتِهِمْ سُقُفاً مِنْ فِضَّةٍ وَمَعَارِجَ عَلَيْهَا يَظْهَرُونَ
وَلِبُيُوتِهِمْ أَبْوَاباً وَسُرُراً عَلَيْهَا يَتَّكِئُونَ
وَزُخْرُفاً وَإِنْ كُلُّ ذَلِكَ لَمَّا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةُ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
33. And were it not that mankind would have become of one community [of disbelievers], We would have provided for those who disbelieve in the Most Gracious [Allah], silver roofs for their houses and stairs whereby they ascend.
34. And for their houses, doors and thrones on which they could recline
35. And adornments of gold. Yet all this would have been nothing but an enjoyment of this world. And the Hereafter with your Lord is [solely] for the pious.
Mundane embellishment is so valueless that God Almighty says in Verse 35 that He is prepared to accord abundant substance to disbelievers; nonetheless, people are easily deceived by them and if disbelievers be accorded such possessions, all people shall turn to disbelief.
Verse 33 is saying that disbelievers’ enjoyment of diverse mundane possessions will lead to all people’s inclination toward disbelief and error. In such case, God would have made for disbelievers houses with silver roofs.
The word ma’arij is used in the sense of stairs and ladders.
Some exegets maintain that silver stairs are meant herein and the word “silver” (fidda) is so clear that it is not reiterated; nonetheless, they do not apparently consider stairs as an indication of the significance of the houses, but it is not so, since numerous stairs indicate the splendor of the multi-storey construction;
is the plural of suqf and some lexicologists consider it to be the plural for of saqifa (“roofed place”), however the former meaning seems to be preferable.
Verse 34 adds:
The sentence may allude to silver doors and thrones since the word
was employed in the preceding Verse but it is not reiterated herein.
It may also refer to numerous doors and thrones, with due consideration to the indefiniteness of
mentioned herein to demonstrate significance, which indicate the glory of the palaces since modest houses do not require numerous doors and thrones.
Verse 35 further says:
in other words, they were provided with embellishments of all kinds so that mundane and gaudy possessions, e.g. luxurious and multi-storey palaces with sliver roofs, doors and thrones and all kinds of adornments desired by mammon worshippers, be fully prepared for them.
However, they are all worldly possessions and the Hereafter belongs to the God fearing:
The word zukhruf in its literal sense indicates any type of adornments and embellishments with stylized floral motifs but since gold is the main means of adornment, the word zukhruf is also applied to it. Muzakhraf indicates idle talk because of the gaudiness and embellishment applied to it.
In short, mundane possessions and luxuries are so valueless before God that they should solely fall into lowly people like disbelievers in Truth and had people of weak faith and mammon worshippers not been inclined toward disbelief and faithlessness, God Almighty would have solely accorded them to such disliked and outcast people so that everyone would know that mundane substance is not the measure of human dignity.
Indeed, there is not any allegory more eloquent than the one mentioned in the preceding Verses in order to shatter false values and change a society whose standards of people’s merits rest on the number of one’s camels, cash money, maids and servants, houses and mansions, and luxurious adornments such that the appointment of Muhammad (S) who was a poor orphan to prophethood was a source of astonishment.
The best thing to do is to shatter such baseless standards and replace them with human values of fearing God and piety, knowledge, sacrifice, and courage otherwise none of the superficial and transient reforms will be of no avail.
The same was carried out in the best manner by the Islamic faith, the Holy Qur’an, and the Messenger of God (S); as a consequence of which a society that was regarded as the most underdeveloped and superstitious societies flourished in a brief span of time.
It would be of interest to know that a Prophetic tradition complements the aforesaid plan:
“If the world had any value before God as little as the wings of a fly, God would not have provided disbelievers with water to drink.”13
The issue is eloquently expressed by ‘Ali (as), the Commander of the Faithful, in the Qasi’a Sermon.
Reproaches of the sinful and concupiscent world in Qur’anic Verses and the traditions narrated from the Prophet’s Household (as) are to found in tradition sources including: Nahj al-Balagha, Majlisi’s Bihar, Usul al-Kafi, Jami’ Ahadith al-Shi’a, Kanz al-Ummal, Saduq’s Amali, Mahajjat al-Bayda’, Ibn Abi ‘l-Hadid’s Commentary on Nahj al-Balagha, Mir’at al-Uqul, Ghazali’s Ihya’ al-Ulum, Mustadrak, Shaykh Mufid’s Amali, Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Riyad al-Salihin, Madinat al-Balagha, Warram’s Majmu’a (“Collection [of Traditions]”), Mishkat al-Anwar.
It is worthy of note that the Islamic Revolution is based on the revolution of values. As a consequence of losing the genuine values and because the values of the Age of Ignorance flourish anew among Muslims in modern times, they live in dire circumstances under the pressures of merciless and bloodthirsty enemies.
It is unfortunate that men are judged on the basis of worldly possessions. Knowledge, fear of God, and other virtues have been consigned to oblivion; they have sunk into mundane gaudy embellishments and have alienated themselves from the Islamic faith.
So long as the status quo is maintained, they have to pay dearly for their dire mistake. In such circumstances, they have to make drastic changes in the values preoccupying them in order to become prepared for Divine Favors being accorded to them
وَمَنْ يَعْشُ عَنْ ذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَنِ نُقَيِّضْ لَهُ شَيْطَاناً فَهُوَ لَهُ قَرِينٌ
وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَصُدُّونَهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَيَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ
36. And whosoever turns away blindly from the remembrance of the Most Gracious [Allah], We appoint for him a devil to be a companion to him.
37. And verily, they [devils] hinder them from the Path [of Allah], but they think that they are guided.
The preceding Verses made mention of disbelievers sinking in worldly possessions but the Verses in question make a reference to one of the tokens of such sinking in gold and adornments.
It is to be noted that the
may imply bad company, spouse, children, or partner. It is for the same reason that the indefinite for of Devil (Shaytanan) in ad hoc employed to include devils of all kind.
According to the preceding Verses, a devil will be appointed by God Almighty to be the companion of the one who turns away from reflection on Qur’anic Verses and turns to mundane preoccupations.
The two blessed Verses in question say that one who does not remember God and the Attributes of his Glory and does not reflect on Qur’anic Verses and Their secrets and delicacies so that the Truth of the Islamic faith becomes manifest to him will undoubtedly be occupied with falsehood and entertains satanic thought in his heart.
Such thought hinders the path of Truth and the passage of angels to his heart; as a consequence of which his heart turns into the camp of devils and man will have no other alternative to hinder the path of devils but to remember God and reflect on Divine Attributes and Creation and through Divine Aid may be able to hinder the path of devils.
It is narrated from the Noble Prophet (S)15 that had it not been for the devils surrounding man’s heart, he would have taken a glance at the dominions of the heavens and the earth.
The Prophetic tradition indicates that any man is worthy of attainting to such station; however, when he is enslaved by his concupiscence, devils will take control of him surrounding his heart and blinding the eyes of his heart through which he is supposed to take a glance at the dominions of the heavens and the earth and discover spiritual truths.
It is to be noted that when one is entangled with the blindness and darkness of one’s concupiscence, he will falsely imagine that he is on the right path whereas he is in error.
حَتَّی إِذَا جَاءَنَا قَالَ يَا لَيْتَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكَ بُعْدَ الْمَشْرِقَيْنِ فَبِئْسَ الْقَرِينُ
وَلَنْ يَنْفَعَكُمُ الْيَوْمَ إِذْ ظَلَمْتُمْ أَنَّكُمْ فِي الْعَذَابِ مُشْتَرِكُونَ
38. [Satan’s companionship continues] till when [the sinner on Resurrection Day] comes unto Us saying [unto his companion, Satan,] “Would that between me and you were the distance of the east and west” – a worst [type of companion you were] indeed!
39. [But it will be said unto him] “It will profit you not [the wish to turn away from devils, since] you did wrong [and] that you will be sharers [you and devils] the chastisement.
On the Day of Resurrection, sinners wish they could distance from devils in Hell, but the Holy Qur’an says that they will share the chastisement with devils and they will not be apart.
Veils will be torn asunder on the Day of Resurrection and many a beloved will fall into disfavor and many an illusion and false belief will be manifest:
The two blessed Verses indicate that sinners turn away from God Almighty as a consequence of which devils turn into their companions in this world until when they return to God Almighty in the Hereafter:
and find themselves in chastisement together with the devils who were their company in this world.
Addressing their evil company they say:
may indicate the east and west since they are far from each other.
The word may designate preferential dual (taghlib) as is the case in “the two suns” (the sun, lit. “the sun and the moon,” shamsayn) and “the two moons” (the moon, lit. “the moon and the sun,” qamarayn). The two easts may also designate hibernal or wintry and estival or summery easts which stand far from each other.
In short, those who have turned away from God Almighty and Qur’anic verses and instead have taken devils as their company will be their companions in Hell but their regrets will be in vain, since they have lost their opportunities with which they were provided in the world.
Turning away from their Origin and Originator and enslaved by their concupiscence, they have provided Satan with the opportunity to ensnare them. They have done wrong to themselves and they have to share Divine Chastisement with their company.
- 1. Majma’ al-Bayan, the opening of the Chapter.
- 2. 26:214
- 3. 112:3-4
- 4. 39:9
- 5. 112:3
- 6. 2:171
- 7. Tafsir Burhan.
- 8. 21:53-54
- 9. 14:35
- 10. 2:124
- 11. Nur al-Thiqalayn, vol. 4, pp. 596-597; Tafsir Burhan, vol. 4, pp. 138-139.
- 12. 6:124
- 13. Kashshaf [Exegesis], vol. 4, p. 250.
- 14. 13:11
- 15. Makhzan al-’Irfan [Exegesis], p.25.